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Emmanuel Macron: Modern President With Midas Touch

From Germany's normally inscrutable Angela Merkel to India's nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Macron's youth, daring and optimism have bowled over world leaders who are lining up for photo-ops with "le Kid" as L'Express news weekly nicknamed the 39-year-old.

AFP

Updated:June 11, 2017, 9:29 AM IST
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Emmanuel Macron: Modern President With Midas Touch
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a visit of the ruins in the French martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France on June 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Paris: He's the man with the Midas touch — so far at least. Since taking office four weeks ago French President Emmanuel Macron's star has shone bright, restoring a sense of national pride.

From Germany's normally inscrutable Angela Merkel to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Macron's youth, daring and optimism have bowled over world leaders who are lining up for photo-ops with "le Kid" as L'Express news weekly nicknamed the 39-year-old.

Resistance is futile, as US President Donald Trump found out when he tried — but failed — to dominate Macron in a by now memorable white-knuckle handshake.

A few days later Trump dropped a bombshell when he confirmed plans to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord.

ALSO READ | Macron's Party in Driving Seat Before French Parliamentary Election

But he was arguably again upstaged by Macron, who replied with an English-language appeal to the world to "make our planet great again" — a slogan that has became a rallying cry for Trump critics.

"France is in vogue again, France is cool," Spain's El Pais newspaper wrote, comparing the Macronmania to the Obamamania that swept the US after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

At home, Macron's rivals have been trying to hold on as scores of lawmakers from across the left-right divide jump ship and join his centrist camp.

Given no chance two months ago of winning a majority, polls now show his year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party romping home in the June 11-June 18 parliamentary vote with between 385 and 415 seats in the 577-member National Assembly.

Macronmania

"At the moment you could take a goat wearing a Macron badge and it would have a good chance of being elected," joked BFMTV political commentator Christophe Barbier.

The son of two doctors from the northeastern city of Amiens had made a career out of breaking the mould.

The former investment banker is married to his 64-year-old former teacher Brigitte Macron, a glamorous divorced mother of three whom he fell for as a teen.

ALSO READ | Make the Planet Great Again: Macron Takes A Jibe At Trump

Their relationship was the subject of deep fascination during the presidential campaign, which the media-savvy Macron worked to his advantage.

His path to France's highest office is as unusual as their inter-generational love story.

Macron had never held elected office before throwing his hat into the ring to replace Francois Hollande, two years after Hollande promoted him from political unknown to become economy minister.

In a country where political careers have traditionally been built over decades, he took the risk of founding his own centrist party from scratch rather than seek the nomination of the right or left.

It was a gamble that paid off among voters disillusioned with the existing political class.

But it was initially met with cynicism, with rivals writing off the ambitious upstart as too inexperienced.

First slip-up

Macron pressed on, using his image as a moderniser to draw in thousands of volunteers to his party, originally called En Marche, which was modelled partly on Obama's 2008 grassroots campaign.

The downfall of the Socialists and a scandal engulfing the conservative Republicans fuelled his rise, allowing Macron to lead the battle against the far-right's Marine Le Pen whom he beat soundly in the election run-off.

En Marche was renamed Republique En Marche immediately after his victory.

While fans compare him to US president John F Kennedy he appears to be more inspired by Francois Mitterrand and Charles de Gaulle, two French presidents remembered for their monarchical approach.

Since his inauguration Macron has sought to restore lost grandeur to the presidency, delivering his victory speech in front of the Louvre museum — a former royal palace — and hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin at Versailles palace.

He also kept a tight rein on communications, to avoid the excessive media exposure that soured voters on Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and to minimise the risk of slip-ups.

He failed to prevent one early blunder from being caught on camera, however.

During a visit to Brittany last week he was caught joking with officials about the flimsy "kwassa-kwassa" boats that transport migrants to the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte in the Comoros archipelago.

"The kwassa-kwassa doesn't do much fishing, it carries Comorians," he said laughing.

The remark caused outrage given the thousands of migrants who have died in such crossings.

Macron's office later admitted to an "unfortunate quip that may have been hurtful".

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